Thursday, October 15, 2015

Marinduque governor suspended over fertilizer funds misuse

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View of Marinduque by Rocky Bryan

The Sandiganbayan has suspended for 60 days Marinduque governor Carmencita Reyes as she faces graft and technical malversation charges over the alleged misuse of fertilizer funds in 2004.

In a resolution, the antigraft court Second Division suspended Reyes for 60 days as she faces charges for her alleged involvement in the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

The court granted the prosecution’s motion to suspend Reyes as mandated under Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which states that a public official facing charges may be placed under preventive suspension.

In her comment opposition, Reyes said she should not be suspended because her continued stay in office would no longer affect the prosecution’s presentation of its case, especially because the witnesses presented are no longer employees in the provincial government.

The Marinduque governor pleaded to the court to allow her to continue in office because she believes her suspension in office would only be used by her political rivals in the 2016 elections.

But the court said it cannot be swayed by political considerations.

“The political considerations or factors being raised by the accused cannot override the mandatory character of the suspension pendente lite that must be observed by the Court, which should remain apolitical,” the court said.

“Wherefore, the Court hereby grants the motion and accordingly orders the suspension pendente lite of Carmencita Reyes as Provincial Governor of Marinduque, and from any other position which she may now or hereafter be holding, for a period of 60 days,” it added.

In its information against Reyes, Ombudsman prosecutors accuse Reyes of diverting P5 million in fertilizer funds intended for poor farmers but instead were spent for one shredding machine, one milling equipment, one pelletizer, and one Tornado Brush Chipper from LCV Design and Fabrication Corp. without public bidding.

The P5 million was part of the P728-million “Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program” of the Department of Agriculture under the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo meant to provide poor farmers with fertilizer, irrigation, seeds, education and training, loans, as well as dryers and post-harvest facilities.

The P728 million fertilizer funds were said to have been diverted to Arroyo’s campaign kitty to pay off favored local officials. The funds were released three months before the 2004 elections. Arroyo was cleared by the Ombudsman over the alleged scam. - Mark Jason Cayabyab, Inquirer

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